Depart, Depart, Depart!
Army First Lieutenant (1LT) Gavin Bell joined his unit in Afghanistan only weeks after graduating helicopter flight school in the United States. A new platoon leader in his troop, Bell had to get to know the members of his unit, familiarize himself with the combat zone, and progress through a rigorous flight refresher training program before flying combat missions. After a series of training flights, Bell felt more comfortable in the aircraft and in the unit. However, just as his confidence began to grow after completing his training progression and several intense missions in contact with the enemy, Bell's commander removed him from a high-profile mission due to lack of experience. Back on the flight schedule a few days later, Bell felt unsure of his ability to make tough decisions in the cockpit. On his first flight ever without the watchful eye of an instructor pilot, Bell sat in the helicopter, left temporarily alone at a remote forward operating base in northeast Afghanistan. Bell's team of two helicopters had landed to drop off reconnaissance materials to the ground force planners and the transfer was taking longer than expected. Beginning to run low on fuel and with Bell's experienced co-pilot still in the base headquarters, the base defense operations center ordered all aircraft to depart the base landing zone due to an immediate enemy attack from the surrounding mountains. Bell has only seconds to decide to make a life-or-death decision: depart by himself in the helicopter, disobeying regulations prohibiting single-pilot flights, or remain at the base his helicopter, a vulnerable target as the enemy fire intensifies.